Meet the imaginary friends of an adolescent Millennial

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Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

I didn’t have many friends growing up. I’m an incredibly shy individual who has a difficult time opening up my personality to others unless I’ve already known them for a long time. Teachers hoped I would have some playmates instead of just sitting on the bench at recess. My parents scolded me in frustration when asked if I had made any new buddies to come over to the house after school or on the weekends. The answer was always no.

My social interactions were with my brother and the interactive media that I consumed in the form of games, movies, and TV. Some reports suggest that up to 37 percent of children over the age of seven create an imaginary friend that comforts them and plays with them in a time of need or loneliness. My imaginary friends were the characters on the screen that I met. When I played as Fox McCloud in the StarFox series, I instantly wanted to be within the space opera of that universe. Why make real friends when I know that my brother and I can mold the personalities of the characters in entertainment to my liking? …

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And why Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was my favorite childhood game character

All gamers have favorite characters from their favorite games, but kids look at video game characters as more than just the artwork on the box. Mario is more than the jumping, Goomba-smashing plumber. Donkey Kong is more than the semi-angry ape who has an obsession with getting his bananas back from the Kremlings. These characters are almost hero-like figures to be emulated in the backyard with siblings and friends. They are beloved by millions of gamers for their signature designs and slick moves in the games they come from.

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A screenshot from the third Ty game, with the hero on the right. Photo courtesy of Kromo Studios’ web site.

My favorite character growing up wasn’t any of the Nintendo icons. It wasn’t Crash Bandicoot or Spyro or the Master Chief. It was Ty the Tasmanian Tiger. The protagonist of a 3D platforming trilogy made by Australian-based Krome Studios, Ty was just cool. Cooler than every other character I had ever played up to that point. He used his variety of boomerangs to take down the bad guys throughout the Australian Outback, collecting opals and thundereggs along the way to the final showdown with Boss Cass (weird, large, emu-like bird called a cassowary). It eventually spawned two sequels, and then a mobile phone game. Still, it’s the definition of a niche character and game series. …

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Coming up with random lists is fun — why not join us and try your own?

Everyone loves a good list, right? They are a great way of thinking about our favorite aspects of gaming — the games themselves, characters, worlds, and so on.


Shawn Laib

University of Washington Class of 2020 in English Literature and fan of video games and basketball. Twitter: @LaibShawn

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